Bittersweet day at races
Hundreds of racegoers came to enjoy what might be the last race day at Stratford’s Te Kapua Park on the last Saturday of 2018.
It was bittersweet for many racegoers on the day, with Marjorie Prince and her husband George among the many who had enjoyed the Stratford races for years.
“We come every year from the Waikato for this event, it’s always a good day out and I can’t believe this will be the last time we can come and enjoy racing here.”
Marjorie says while she understands some of the reasoning behind the controversial Messara Report which has recommended the closure of 20 racecourses including Stratford to help the racing industry become profitable, she still thinks closing Stratford’s racecourse is a bad idea.
“Just look around you. There are hundreds of people here today of all ages, from all over the place, joining together to have a good day out. The kids you see playing games today will be the punters of the future as long as they grow up being able to watch racing. Take this track away from them and they won’t, because they won’t know how much fun horse racing is.”
Arthur Higgins had come from Wellington with two of his grandchildren to spend the day at the races.
“I try to take the grandkids to a race day every year, and knowing this might be the last time Stratford had one, we decided to make it Stratford this year. I’ve been before but not for a few years and the kids have never been. They have had a great day and are already asking if we will come again. Well, they won’t be able to will they and that’s a damn shame really.”
Despite the potential of it being a last hurrah, racegoers still had a great day, said Stratford Racing Club spokesman David Jones.
“The races are a family favourite in Stratford and it’s been great to see so many Stratford residents out enjoying themselves today, soaking up the sun and all-day entertainment.”
In December Racing Minister Winston Peters announced a five-member Ministerial Advisory Committee to inform the next steps on the Messara Review of the New Zealand Racing Industry.
“This Government is committed to reforming the racing industry. The Ministerial Advisory Group will develop a plan to operationalise the Messara Report to deliver better governance and economic outcomes,” Peters said.
Peters has appointed Dean McKenzie as chairman. He is an experienced racing administrator whose dedication and passion to improving the industry make him the ideal choice to lead this very important work, Peters said.
He will be well-supported by committee members Bill Birnie, Liz Dawson, Kristy McDonald and Sir Peter Vela.
“Collectively, they will identify the technical, legal, financial and process-oriented decision points for racing reform and return the industry to a wellmanaged and sustainable economic growth path,” Peters said.
“They will also take into account the feedback received during the public submission process.”
The committee will provide an interim report to the Minister for Racing by the end of February 2019, to be followed by Cabinet decisions, and legislation to modernise the industry.
The committee is being created as a potential precursor to the establishment of a Racing Industry Transitional Agency (RITA), subject to future government decisions.
The boys put plenty of effort into the children’s tug of war competition on the day, but ultimately lost 2-1 to the stronger girls’ team!
Guillada ridden by Rosie Myers crosses the finish line in first place, ahead of Reflection with jockey Lisa Allpress.